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Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Grudge 2

Some will remember my review of this little horror film from Japan 2 years ago. I stated it was one of the scariest movies I had ever seen, in fact, I thought it was the epitome of the way to go with horror. I was pleased with the psychological horror that took place and the reality that the movie was able to scare the heck out of me by using very little blood, no nudity, and no cursing. In fact, with the exception of the terror in the film, there was virtually nothing the opponents of horror could pick on other than the fear the movie possessed.

I can't think of any movie in a long time that I was looking forward to seeing more than The Grudge 2. The movie had many of the former contributors back. Written by Stephen Susco, Directed by Takashi Shimizu, along with actress Sarah Michelle Gellar all return along with some newcomers that had me having hope for this sequel. The story picks up at the conclusion of The Grudge, and we assume from the opening scenes we are going to be drawn right into the movie with the same eye opening, heart pounding scenes that opened the original. After all we had been promised this by the movie company. As far as I could tell from the press materials, this movies openings were going to make the opening of The Grudge look like child's play. How wrong could they have been and unfortunately this sets the tone of the rest of the movie.

What follows next is a hodge podge of story telling that leaves a lot to be desired. For many who don't know about it by now, or understand the horror concepts of Japan, it is much different than what we know in the Western World. There is a great deal of symbolism and death is not something to be afraid of, it is something to be experienced. It is not unusual to see the hero die, or give up their life. There is a clear understanding of life after death, and a clear understanding that life after death is often affiliated with evil. Even the way the story is told is uniquely different. We see instead of long narrative stories more short stories and often we start with the end, and regress to the start as opposed to starting at the beginning and finishing with the end. I know this may be difficult to make sense of but it is a process and technique that is often hard for those of us in the West to follow and a technique that causes us often ignore this medium. That is sad, because just like in the first Grudge and others like Ju-On we miss out on some great stories.

This process requires a great deal directorial effort to work, it is why we have some great story tellers coming out of the East, they have honed their craft. It is in part what made the first movie so good, it was unique and delicately approached. The detail to making it appropriate for Western audiences, while maintaining the integrity of the original story led to great cinema, unfortunately, in the translation to making it appropriate for American audiences, this film has lost its luster.

There is really nothing original here. In fact I purchased the original Ju-On two days after seeing The Grudge in theaters. I also purchased the original Japanese version of The Grudge the following week. The story was the exact same story, with dubs, and some minor modifications. The Grudge 2 borrows heavily on various stories coming out of Japanese culture. Unfortunately The Grudge 2 don't follow the same story line as Ju-On 2. The Grudge 2, is a compilation of various short stories, attempted to be thrown in together as a single story. While many of those short stories are compelling and enthralling, at least I as a viewer became quickly bored, and frustrated with the way it was being told. In fact, in this supposedly scary movie of the season, I almost fell asleep. The scares are easily anticipated, and the makers play off of too many scenes and concepts that worked in the first movie. For me, I was insulted as a viewer. I had seen the first movie, didn't need the same scares, and have watched a great deal of Japanese horror, and didn't need the short stories I had seen in the past presented as new.

Sure there are a few new concepts in the movie, a few that maybe those of us in the West haven't observed, but any fan of Japanese movies has seen much of what we see here. While the first movie was creepy, scary, and causing me to want to put a blanket over my head to hide from the boogie man, this movie had me wanting to put a blanket over my head as well; over my head because the theater was cold, and I was sleepy. I almost think the movie theater knew the movie was going to be so bad they turned down the thermostat. If it had been warm all of us in attendance would have fallen asleep. When the supposed scariest scenes in a movie produces the biggest laughs, we know something is wrong, and in The Grudge 2, there was indeed something wrong, I had wasted good money on a horrible movie.

With the movie being as bad as it was, there was something of value in the story. The power of Rage and Revenge are appropriately addressed. We have a brief, albeit way to brief look, at the concept of exorcism of demons, and the intrigue of where evil comes from. I appreciated that the movie recognizes that much of that which is evil comes from within, as opposed to having to be blamed on an evil entity. There is the assumption that from within our own hearts and lives, we feed that which is ultimately evil. This was a unique and nice approach to see, although we only see this for the remaining moments of the movie. We see evil that rage and revenge has the power to destroy families, friendships, hopes, and even the innocence of children. Starting with this premise, and making a few changes with originality we could have had a movie superior to the original, unfortunately it just isn't there.

Often times we have the right ingredients to do what is right, even do what could be beautiful, but because we don't process, don't think about what we are doing, we lose focus. I believe that is what happened here. The makers lost focus. Instead of focusing on what they had, they focused on what they thought they could have more money. As a result, they will inevitably have less, just like we will if we don't learn to focus on the things of our own lives that produce beauty and have the potential to do good.

On a scale of 1 - 10, for the actual original moments I thought existed in the movie, I'll give a very disappointing 3

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